Family/Faith

Flatlining.

Today was the day.

Paul and I were getting baptized, committing our lives to understanding that the way to the cross is through Christ alone. In my head, I had it all planned out. The sun would be shining. The kids would be staring at their parents, in awe of this monumentous decision that we were making. They would, of course, fully understand everything, and have a quiet hush about them. I would walk out, fully grasping what was happening, and when I was sunk into the water, my heart would pitter patter at the enormity of it all. I would break through the surface of the water, knowing that I HAVE BEEN SAVED, ALLELUIA. Then Paul would go out, have the same life changing experience. We would come back, loving Jesus and loving each other.

What a nice picture.

It was, in fact, nothing like that.

The stress of these last few months (and from life in general) have been building to a nice little peak. Paul got in late Friday night, and I was busy with work all day yesterday. Between the Big Life Stuff that has been happening, and the Little Life Stressors that are constantly checking for weaknesses in our armor, I was a wreck. I was snappy with Paul, yelling that everything is FINE, I’m FINE, IT’S ALL GOOD, as I chucked dishes into the sink and got more aggravated with my children than I care to admit. I created whole scenarios in my head, where I was the victim, and don’t they know what this weekend is?! I JUST NEED A MOMENT, A BREAK. This morning, there was a chill in the house, with both parents tired, a child that had been up the night before losing her lunch through all available exits. This BIG THING was coming towards us, and I was a mess. I was a wreck, bunched up with stress and anxiety and anger and exhaustion. Pump, Pump, Breathe.

This is not what it was supposed to look like.

Paul ended up staying home with the kids for the service, fearing that Alex would have a recurrence even though she had seemed fine but tired that morning. The Baptism wasn’t happening until after the service, at a nearby lake. We would reconvene and make a call between the two.

I slammed the door on my way out, hurriedly putting a barrier between myself and my life. Pump, Pump, Breathe.

This is not what it was supposed to feel like.

I found one of my pastors at church, quickly explaining that the Big One had been sick last night and that we weren’t sure what was going to happen. He said maybe one word in response before my Max had been reached, and tears sprung to my eyes. I nodded and said something, tried to fill my coffee cup just to give me something to do, and then ran to the back door and out into the alley, with the tears freely running down my face. A dear friend happened to be passing by with her family, and she backtracked and stayed with me, casting a blanket of prayer over me as I wept on the street. The tears cast their salty trails over my lips before cascading onto the dirt below. Pump, Pump, Breathe.

This is not what it was supposed to taste like.

I went back into the service and cried during the songs. I texted Husband a weak “I’m sorry” during the sermon, deciding that it couldn’t wait and that he needed to know that I understood that the stress was stealing this moment from us.

At the end of the service, we sang songs about coming to Jesus empty handed. One of the things I love about our church is that the songs we sing are all about what God has done for us, and none of the songs talk about what we can do for God. We are reminded every Sunday that it’s not up to us. None of it. It is finished.

Pump, Pump, Breathe.

As we sang about Jesus bringing the dead to life, an image formed in my head that stopped me.

I have been struggling with catching stillness all summer. I’m reading book after book about stepping out of the Hustle and into the arms of God, and I have not been able to even figure out the steps needed to do that. What does that even look like??

There, sitting in the pew next to yet another dear friend who covered me in prayer before the service that morning, it’s like everything fell into place, just for a moment.

There I was, in my head, covered in sweat, frantically leaning over a lifeless body. It wasn’t right. This body was supposed to be alive, supposed to do so much. I was doing my best to breathe life into her, pumping on her chest and pushing air into her lungs. She was supposed to LIVE. If she could not breathe, I would do it for her.

Pump, Pump, Breathe.

On and on. The wrongness of her stillness drove me mad.

Pump, Pump, Breathe.

As I banged on her chest, I took her in. She was me. I was her. The same body that was trying so hard to breathe life into the dead was lying still on the table.

It wasn’t right.

She needs to be raising her children. She needs to be loving her spouse. She needs to be working her business. She needs to be caring for her home. She needs to be volunteering. She needs to be caring for those around her. She needs to be doing ALL THE THINGS.

This isn’t what it was supposed to be like.

And so I worked frantically, pumping life into her body, because if I didn’t, if SHE didn’t, who would?

There in the pew, this image ran through my head.

Pump, Pump, Breathe.

And there, singing about God and His love and His Son and His Death, she stopped. This wasn’t right. The body lay still. The heart monitor gave a ga-lump and then a steady buzz, flatlining. There is no life in that body. And it’s not my job to fix that. Hands shaking, sweat still dripping off of my face, I take a step back.

This body IS supposed to live.

This body IS supposed to love.

This body IS supposed to be loved.

But it’s not me that makes it so. And by trying so hard to make her heart start, I kept it from beating on its own.

And so I stopped.

And between the end of the service, to when I came home to my family to help herd them into the van, to the time it took to drive to the lake, I let the sound of that buzz… that sound of certain death… I let it stay with me. I let myself see that that body was indeed dead. I let myself drop everything that I had been doing to keep it alive… one by one. Drop the idea of being a perfect parent. Drop the idea of being a perfect spouse. Drop the idea of being a perfect vessel for God. And I fought the reaction to bend down and pick it up. Fought the fear crawling up my throat that I am killing her by standing still. Fought the panic and confusion. And just listened to the buzz, to the silence of her heart.

She is dead, she is dead.

But not for long.

I let the buzz run through my head as I stepped out into the lake.

I let the buzz answer as I was asked if I would give it up and sit with Jesus.

She is dead, she is dead.

And as I was tipped back into the water, I let that sweaty girl, that girl who has been killing herself to keep her alive, I let her disappear. I left her on the bottom of the lake. And as I was brought up, the buzz turned into a beep, the girl on the table took a breath, opened her eyes.

She is alive, and she is free.

Free from the madness of defeating death. Because it is done. Free from the madness of perfection. Because it is done.

She… I… I will falter. I will fail. I will fall back and pick those things up and start trying to breathe life into that which is already alive. I will forget.

But I hope I remember. I hope I remember that I am powerless to defeat death. I hope I remember that God has done that for me already, and that by trying so hard to fix everything, I keep God’s stillness from bringing forth that breath of life. I hope I remember the shrill of Joy I felt when I realized I could show up like THIS, empty and broken, and God would still embrace me.

Because that’s what I found today, sitting in a church pew, and then again at the bottom of the lake. I found stillness. I found a moment where I was able to let go of the Hustle and the Grind, and rest in the arms and the promise of a Savior.

That is was it was supposed to be like.

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